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University of Texas at Austin

William Faulkner:

An Inventory of His Collection at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator: Faulkner, William, 1897-1962
Title: William Faulkner Collection
Dates: 1912-1970 (bulk 1920-1942)
Extent: 13 document boxes, 13 galley files (gf) (5.26 linear feet)
Abstract: The William Faulkner Collection contains drafts and publishing proofs of Faulkner's novels, short stories, poetry, and scripts; correspondence; and material about the author William Cuthbert Faulkner originating from a variety of sources.
Call Number: Manuscript Collection MS-01365
Language: English
Access: Open for research. Some materials restricted for preservation; copies available. Curatorial permission needed for access to originals.

Administrative Information

Acquisition: Gifts and purchases, 1957-2002
Processed by: Amy E. Armstrong, 2010

Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin

Biographical Sketch

William Cuthbert, born on September 25, 1897, in New Albany, Mississippi, was the first of four children born to Maud and Murry Falkner. In 1902, the Falkner family moved to Oxford, Mississippi. Both accomplished painters, Faulkner's mother and maternal grandmother, Lelia Butler, instilled into "Billy" an appreciation for music, literature, and art. It was perhaps Faulkner's legendary great-grandfather, however, William Clark Falkner--an infamous Confederate soldier, lawyer, railroad developer, and successful author--who provided Faulkner with his spirited personality and gift for storytelling. Though smart, Faulkner had a difficult time in school because of his chronic truancy and dropped out of high school after the tenth grade. He met Phil Stone, four years older and the son of a prominent lawyer and banker, in 1914. Stone took an interest in Faulkner's early writing and mentored him in life and literature; he suggested authors and works for Faulkner to read and introduced him to the more colorful elements of local gambling, roadhouse, and bordello culture. Lida Estelle Oldham, whom Faulkner would later marry, was a neighbor and early romantic interest; however, under pressure from her family, Oldham instead married prominent local lawyer Cornell Franklin. After Oldham's marriage to Franklin, Faulkner tried to enlist as a pilot in the U.S. Army, but his enlistment was denied, apparently due to his height.
Stone, a law student at Yale University, invited Faulkner to New Haven; while there, Faulkner decided to enlist in the Canadian branch of the Royal Air Force (RAF). He created a British expatriate identity for himself and changed his last name by adding a "u" to its spelling. Faulkner began training as an RAF pilot in Toronto, Canada, in July 1918, but the armistice of November 1918 ended his dream of becoming a pilot and a war hero. Undeterred, he returned to Mississippi in a purchased RAF officer's uniform, along with a fantastic war story and a newly-acquired limp.
Faulkner enrolled as a "special student" at the University of Mississippi, where he took language courses and had several poems and sketches published in the student newspaper, The Mississippian; however, he withdrew from the University in November 1919. In 1921, friend and author Stark Young invited Faulkner to New York City, where he briefly worked as a clerk in a bookstore for Elizabeth Prall (who later married author Sherwood Anderson). Faulkner soon returned to Oxford and worked a variety of odd jobs, including three years as postmaster at the University post office--a position he approached lackadaisically and detested.
Faulkner was influenced by the works of Shelley, Keats, Verlaine, Housman, Eliot, Pound, and Swinburne. He began writing poetry and in 1919 his first poem, "L'Après-Midi d'un Faune," was published in The New Republic. While at the University of Mississippi, he joined the drama group and self-published by hand-lettering and illustrating the booklets for his short play The Marionettes (1920). In 1924, Phil Stone contributed an introduction to and helped finance the publication of Faulkner's first book, a collection of poetry called The Marble Faun, published by the Four Seas Company.
In 1924, Faulkner visited Elizabeth Prall in New Orleans and she introduced him to her husband, author Sherwood Anderson. Though Faulkner only lived in New Orleans for about six months, the city had a strong influence on him. He lived with the Andersons for a short time and eventually roomed with artist William Spratling. By 1925, Faulkner had turned from poetry to prose and focused on stories and sketches. He contributed a group of brief sketches called "New Orleans" to the New Orleans literary magazine The Double Dealer and a series of several sketches for the Sunday feature section of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Faulkner also began working on his first novel. On behalf of Faulkner, Anderson recommended Soldiers' Pay to his publisher, and Boni & Liveright published the novel in February 1926. Faulkner and Spratling collaborated on a limited edition, self-published book of New Orleans character sketches, Sherwood Anderson & Other Famous Creoles: A Gallery of Contemporary New Orleans (1926), which parodied Sherwood Anderson's style. Anderson apparently was not flattered by the publication, and his relationship with Faulkner suffered. In July 1925, Faulkner and Spratling sailed to Europe; Faulkner returned to Mississippi after several months.
At the time of their publication, Faulkner's books received varied responses and reviews from critics. Many found his modern experimental style, characterized by long sentences, elaborate syntax, and shifting points of view, difficult to read. He heavily revised his works, and themes of sex, religion, race, and gender frequently played out in fictional Yoknapatawpha County, the setting of many of his novels. Ben Wasson, Faulkner's friend as well as periodic agent and editor, edited Faulkner's third novel, Sartoris (1929) [variously titled Flags in the Dust], and his next novels The Sound and the Fury (1929) and As I Lay Dying (1930). Between 1929 and 1942, Faulkner published eleven novels, two collections of short stories, approximately forty-five stories, and a collection of poetry.
Faulkner's professional and personal lives were flourishing, but happiness seemed short-lived. He married Estelle Oldham on June 20, 1929; she and Franklin had divorced in April of the same year, and she brought her two children with her. The marriage seemed doomed from the start, with alcohol and eventual extramarital affairs playing large roles. In 1930, the Faulkners purchased a dilapidated antebellum home they named Rowan Oak. The couple had a premature daughter they named Alabama, but she lived just nine days. They later had a daughter, Jill, born in 1933. Two years later, in 1935, Faulkner's youngest brother, Dean, was killed in a plane accident. Since Faulkner had introduced Dean to aviation, he felt responsible for the accident and took financial responsibility for his brother's widow and niece. Though Faulkner was prolific, his novels were not commercially successful and he faced increased financial burdens and frequently teetered toward bankruptcy. To earn cash, Faulkner sold short stories to magazines and in 1932 accepted an offer from MGM studios to write film scripts for them periodically, as well as for other Hollywood studios. In 1935, while working on the script The Road to Glory, Faulkner met director Howard Hawks's secretary and "script girl," Meta Carpenter (who later became Rebner Wilde), and the two began an affair that lasted intermittently for fifteen years.
By the 1940s, all but one of Faulkner's novels were out-of-print. With the help of literary critic Malcolm Cowley, Faulkner was rediscovered by a new audience of readers when the anthology The Portable Faulkner (1946) was published. Two years later Faulkner published Intruder in the Dust (1948), and the novel was adapted to film and shot in Oxford, Mississippi, where it premiered in 1949. He received the 1949 Nobel Prize for Literature and though he begrudgingly attended the 1950 ceremony, he wrote one of the award's most memorable speeches. In 1954, he won the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award for A Fable (1954). While Faulkner was versatile and known for memorable short stories such as "A Rose for Emily," he was perhaps lesser-known for his detective fiction published in Knight's Gambit (1949) and numerous non-fiction reviews, essays, introductions, and speeches.
Faulkner's final years were characterized by ambivalence. He took a public stand on segregation and the civil rights movement that pleased neither side of the issue. The U.S. Department of State, however, asked Faulkner to serve as a U.S. literary ambassador to countries such as Japan. He was intensely private and enjoyed riding his horses, but had a series of serious falls that caused chronic back pain, likely contributing to his heavy drinking. In 1957 and 1958, Faulkner was writer-in-residence at the University of Virginia, a post he thoroughly enjoyed. The Reivers, his final novel, was published in 1962. On July 5, 1962, Faulkner was admitted to Wright's Sanitarium in Byhalia, Mississippi, where he died of a heart attack the next day.


Fargnoli, A. Nicholas, Michael Golay, and Robert W. Hamblin. Critical Companion to William Faulkner: A Literary Reference to His Life and Work, New York: Facts on File, Inc., 2008.
Towner, Theresa M. The Cambridge Introduction to William Faulkner, Cambridge (UK) and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008.
"William Faulkner."Dictionary of Literary Biography, (accessed 18 August 2010).

Scope and Contents

The William Faulkner Collection contains drafts and publishing proofs of Faulkner's novels, short stories, poetry, and scripts; correspondence; and material about the author William Cuthbert Faulkner originating from a variety of sources. The core of the collection was formed by the Dean Faulkner Mallard, Meta Rebner, and Carvel Collins collections of Faulkner and compiled as additional Faulkner-related works and material were acquired by the Ransom Center. The collection is organized into four series: I. Works, II. Correspondence, III. Faulkner-Personal, and IV. Works by Others.
Series I. Works forms the bulk of the collection and is arranged into four subseries: A. Novels, B. Poetry, C. Short Stories, and D. Scripts, Film Adaptations, Other Writings. The Novels subseries contains various incomplete fragments, drafts, galley proofs, and page proofs for nine of Faulkner's novels: Absalom, Absalom! (1936), As I Lay Dying (1930), The Hamlet (1940), Intruder in the Dust (1948), Light in August (1932), The Mansion (1959), Pylon (1935), Sanctuary (1931), and Sartoris (1929). Of particular interest is the handwritten manuscript for Absalom, Absalom! Due to its fragile condition, photocopies have replaced the manuscript in the box and use of the original is restricted. However, permission to access the original manuscript may be granted by special request. Related to this novel is Faulkner's heavily hand-corrected galley proof for Absalom, Absalom! Also of interest is the original thermofax typescript of The Mansion, sent by Faulkner to editor Albert Erskine. These sheets have been sleeved in mylar and bound into volumes to aid in use and long-term preservation. A complete photocopy version of the thermofax is also bound and available for use.
Subseries B. Poetry is mostly comprised of typescript drafts of poems, some unpublished, that Faulkner wrote in the early 1920s. Most of the typescripts were recovered from a 1942 fire which destroyed the Oxford, Mississippi, home of Faulkner's friend and patron Phil Stone, who wrote the introduction for and financed Faulkner's first published work, a poetry collection, The Marble Faun (1924). As a result of the 1942 fire, the poems' paper has darkened and become very brittle, making them extremely fragile. The poetry typescripts have varying levels of fire damage, making identification of the verse difficult. In order to stabilize, protect, and preserve the poems, conservators have lined and individually encapsulated the sheets.
The collection was previously cataloged by poem title or by the first verse line if the poem's title was missing. Over time scholars have identified many of the drafts and once-separated fragments have been reunited. The sheets frequently contain two identifying numbers: the census number and/or the Sensibar number. The census identifier refers to Keen Butterworth's "A Census of Manuscripts and Typescripts of William Faulkner's Poetry" (Mississippi Quarterly, 26:3 [1973: Summer]) and the Sensibar identifier refers to Judith L. Sensibar's Faulkner's Poetry: A Bibliographical Guide to Texts and Criticism (Ann Arbor, Michigan: UMI Press, 1988). The poems are arranged in alphabetical order by identified title or by first identifiable line verse. These poems have been cross-referenced with the item number assigned by Sensibar, which is noted in the finding aid as [S#], where the # symbol corresponds to Sensibar's item number.
Individual poems published in The Marble Faun (1924) and A Green Bough (1933) are also present in the collection. Though the poems in A Green Bough were originally titled with Roman numerals, Butterworth and Sensibar identified them in their works by their known titles which is how they are arranged in this collection. The folder titled "Michael / Orpheus / Vision in Spring"contains unidentified typescript pages that bear thematic resemblance to and may be part of a sequence of unpublished poems called Michael, or they may belong to, or be related to, the sequences titled Vision in Spring or Orpheus. The verso of some of these leafs contains Faulkner's 1921 handwritten review of Conrad Aiken's Turns and Movies, as well as handwritten text that bears a close relationship to Vision in Spring (1921). This series also contains a corrected typescript and galley proofs for Faulkner's 1933 poetry collection, A Green Bough.
Subseries C. Short Stories contains drafts and proofs of short stories and short story collections. As many of Faulkner's stories were reprinted in various Faulkner short story anthologies, including posthumous publications, the date listed in parentheses is the first known publication date. Doctor Martino and Other Stories (1934) was Faulkner's second short story collection and contained fourteen stories, including "Black Music,""The Leg," and "Mountain Victory." Drafts of these stories in this series bear a number written in orange crayon at the top of the page, which corresponds with the sequence in Doctor Martino and Other Stories and appears to have been used for the draft of that collection. Faulkner wrote "The Wishing Tree" for his stepdaughter, Victoria Franking, in 1927, and the collection contains an incomplete carbon typescript of this story.
In 1925, Faulkner published a New Orleans sketch in The Double Dealer and an ongoing series of sketches he called "Mirrors of Chartres Street," published in the New Orleans Times-Picayune's Sunday magazine. This subseries contains a small segment of drafts and a sample book binding for Mirrors of Chartres Street, a reprinted collection of these 1925 sketches published by the Faulkner Studies quarterly at the University of Minnesota in 1953. Included are what appear to be selected original drafts and selected carbon typescripts typed and used by the editor of this 1953 collection. Carvel Collins later reprinted these sketches in his William Faulkner: New Orleans Sketches (1958). Related to these writings is a small volume titled Royal Street, New Orleans, which is Faulkner's 1926 self-published, handwritten, and illustrated version of his sketch "New Orleans," which was originally published in The Double Dealer in 1925.
Subseries D. Scripts, Film Adaptations, Other Writings contains Faulkner's unproduced screenplay Battle Cry (1943), as well as film adaptations written by other screenwriters for three of his novels. Of particular interest is the bound screenplay for The Story of Temple Drake (1933). It contains several black-and-white photographs taken on the set of the film, as well as numerous photographs of the film's storyboards. Faulkner distributed the few handwritten and illustrated manuscripts for his play, The Marionettes (1920), to his friends and members of the drama group at the University of Mississippi. The collection contains two of the few extant copies. Also contained in this series is a photocopy of Faulkner's June 8, 1953, commencement address delivered to his daughter Jill's graduating class at Pine Manor Junior College in Wellesley, Massachusetts. The Atlantic published the speech as "Faith or Fear" in its August 1953 issue. Titles of works are listed in the Index of Works located at the end of this finding aid.
Series II. Correspondence contains incoming, outgoing, and third-party letters and is arranged into three subseries: A. William Faulkner, B. Phil Stone, and C. Third-party. Subseries A. William Faulkner consists primarily of Faulkner's outgoing correspondence to his family and his mistress, Meta Carpenter Rebner.
The bulk of Faulkner's family letters are to his mother, Maud, though there are a few letters to his father, Murry, and one letter to his brother, Dean. The letters were originally arranged chronologically and therefore correspond with specific periods and locations where Faulkner lived during his early life. The letters date from 1912 when Faulkner lived in Oxford, Mississippi, to 1925 when he lived in New Orleans. The letters also document Faulkner's period in New Haven, Connecticut; at Royal Air Force (RAF) pilot training in Canada in 1918; his return to New Haven; and his later move to New York City. There are also letters Faulkner wrote while traveling in Paris, France. The letters are mostly handwritten, but many of the later ones are typed.
The 1918 segment of letters describes Faulkner's first departure from home to visit Phil Stone in New Haven and his enlistment in the RAF. It was at this time that Faulkner (originally spelled Falkner) began inserting the letter "u" into his last name. Though his letters do not explain the change, the envelopes document Faulkner's change as he goes from addressing the letters to his family as Falkner, then Faulkner, and back to Falkner. In his RAF letters, Faulkner describes his training, the quarantine resulting from the influenza outbreak, and his release from the RAF at the conclusion of World War I. Faulkner frequently added illustrations, such as a soldier in uniform, to his letters. The 1921 letters were written while Faulkner lived in New Haven and New York City. He describes his visit with Stark Young and his life in New York City. The 1925 New Orleans and Pascagoula letters describe Faulkner's associations with Sherwood and Elizabeth Anderson and William Spratling. He describes his writings for the Times-Picayune, the work he completed on his first novel, and his social life in the French Quarter. In many of the letters, Faulkner frequently mentions receiving cakes from his mother and his frequent requests asking her to send him certain items or clothing.
There are approximately forty letters dated from 1936 to 1960 from Faulkner to his California mistress, Meta Carpenter Rebner. Most of the letters are typed, and in these letters Faulkner shares his romantic thoughts, details about his work and home life, as well as his overall health. Of particular interest is an illustrated letter from June 1936 in which Faulkner drew a comic strip depicting him and Rebner playing ping-pong, going to the beach, and going to dinner while he was in California. In addition, enclosed with an October 1953 letter is a check from Rebner made payable to Faulkner in repayment of a loan Faulkner provided to her, which he has torn in half and returned to her.
Subseries B. predominately contains third-party correspondence to and from Faulkner's friend and representative Phil Stone, often on behalf of Faulkner and his publication of The Marble Faun. Subseries C. Third-party contains letters associated with Faulkner, particularly from members of his family and Faulkner scholars. Correspondent names are listed in the Index of Correspondents located at the end of this finding aid.
Series III. Faulkner-Personal is comprised of documents related to or about William Faulkner's life and work. The series is arranged in alphabetical order by item or subject and includes contracts, a report card, a sketch, reviews, a small amount of papers belonging to Phil Stone, and similar documents. In this series is the complete publication file and mock-up for Casanova Press's 1932 limited edition printing of Salmagundi; this file contains correspondence about the volume's production and costs, as well as cancelled checks endorsed by Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway. Also included are two photocopy typescript excerpts associated with William Spratling. First is Faulkner's foreword to Sherwood Anderson and Other Famous Creoles, which contained illustrations by Spratling. Second is Spratling's foreword to "Chronicle of a Friendship: New Orleans in the Twenties." Both of these works were printed (and in the case of Sherwood Anderson and Other Famous Creoles reprinted in facsimile) in Texas Quarterly (Spring 1966) and both were subsequently reprinted in book form by the Ransom Center (then called the Humanities Research Center) and University of Texas Press in 1966. There are also ten photograph snapshots of Faulkner and a Faulkner-related exhibit originally housed in a basic flip album, but removed for preservation purposes.
Series IV. Works by Others contains proofs or copies of Faulkner biographies written by Faulkner scholars. The series contains two works and is arranged in alphabetical order by author's last name.

Related Material

Related collections at the Harry Ransom Center include the Carvel Collins Collection of William Faulkner Research Materials, which contains subject files, research notes, microfilm, interview rolls, photographs, scrapbooks, and other material Collins collected to use for his unwritten biography of William Faulkner. Most of these papers are stored remotely and advance notice is required for retrieval. Other related collections at the Center include the Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Records, Sanora Babb, Zdzislaw Czermanski, Hugh Kenner, Carlton Lake, Limited Editions Club, Magnum Photos, Inc., Nickolas Muray, Paul Patrick Rogers, and the Photography Department's William Faulkner Literary File.
Other repositories with material related to William Faulkner include the New York Public Library, Southeast Missouri State University, Tulane University, the University of Mississippi, and the University of Virginia.

Separated Material

Sound Recordings were transferred to the Ransom Center's Sound Recording collection and are described individually in a list at the end of this finding aid and in a searchable database.

Index Terms


Faulkner, William, 1897-1962.
Stone, Philip Avery, 1893-1967.
Wilde, Meta Carpenter.


American poetry--20th century.
Authors, American--20th century.
Novelists, American--20th century.
Poets, American--20th century.
World War, 1914-1918--Canada.


Oxford (Miss.)
Hollywood (Los Angeles, Calif.)

Document Types

Galley proofs.

Container List